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poems

poem

One morning state police
escort us to your grave
the next my flight is canceled.

Maintenance issues breaking
out all over. You would speak
of a “grand theory,” something

tying all this together, but
you had none yourself, none
that reached me then or now

poem
I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in
2
poem
It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed

texts

text
Poetic Terms/Forms
2014

In April 2014 A Poet’s Glossary by Academy Chancellor Edward Hirsch was published. As Hirsch writes in the preface, “this book—one person’s work, a poet’s glossary—has grown, as if naturally, out of my lifelong interest in poetry, my curiosity about its vocabulary, its forms and genres, its histories and traditions, its classical, romantic, and modern movements, its various outlying groups, its small devices and large mysteries—how it works.” Each week we will feature a term and its definition from Hirsch’s new book. 

lament  A poem or song expressing grief. The lament is powered by a personal sense of loss. The poetry of lamentation, which arose in oral literature alongside heroic poetry, seems to exist in all languages and poetries. One finds it, for example, in ancient Egyptian, in Hebrew, in Chinese, in Sanskrit, in Zulu. A profound grief is formalized as mourning, as in Lamentations 2:10:

The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the

text
Essays
2015

     At closing time
     standing outside the public library
     with ID card expired,
     the books remain on shelves—
     Lev Vygotsky, Toni Morrison, Levertov, Cassirer,
     and the Zora Neale Hurston (which probably isn’t there) . . .

“Who is this Christopher Gilbert and why am I only just hearing about him?” That’s what I continue to ask myself at almost every encounter with this poet. Typing the opening stanza of “The ‘The,’” for example, I lingered again on the authors named in the poem. I had to research Lev Vygotsky and Ernst Cassirer. Part of the wink in those opening lines is that the speaker (someone so like Christopher Gilbert we could call him Christopher Gilbert) is also planning to research the authors. In seeing what the seeker seeks we see something of the seeker. The poem tells us something about his eclectic intelligence as well as his eclectic curiosity. He’s after Lev Vygotsky, the Russian development

text
Essays
2008

I

I write because I would like to live forever. The fact of my future death offends me. Part of this derives from my sense of my own insignificance in the universe. My life and death are a barely momentary flicker. I would like to become more than that. That the people and things I love will die wounds me as well. I seek to immortalize the world I have found and made for myself, even knowing that I won't be there to witness that immortality, mine or my work's, that by definition I will never know whether my endeavor has been successful. But when has impossibility ever deterred anyone from a cherished goal? As the brilliant poet and teacher Alvin Feinman once said to me, "Poetry is always close kin to the impossible, isn't it?"

My aim is to rescue some portion of the drowned and drowning, including always myself. For a long time my poetry emerged from and was fueled by an impulse to rescue my mother from her own death and from the wreckage of her life, out of which I

books

book
Poetry Book
1926
The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes
book
Poetry Book
2012
When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz
book
Poetry Book
2012
Nervous Device by Catherine Wagner